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Do Students Take Guest Lecturers and Speakers for Granted?

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. ESPN host Stephen A. Smith. Former Attorney General Eric Holder. NCIS actor Chris O’Donnell. Former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard.

What do these industry leaders all have in common? Answer: they have all spoken at Boston College within the past year.

While these high-profile events usually attract hordes of students, BC organizations, such as the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics and the Lowell Humanities Series, often invite a myriad of lesser-known speakers, authors, and leaders to campus for smaller yet equally interesting events that do not receive nearly as much attention from students.

Emails from these organizations advertising such events can easily get lost amidst students' overflowing inboxes and even more over-scheduled agendas. But usually, students cite a lack of time when explaining why they do not attend these events, not a lack of interest.

Laurie St. Clair, MCAS ’19, agrees with that sentiment. “I love to attend on-campus lectures as often as I can, but unfortunately, that is not as frequent as I would like due to homework and other commitments.”

The unfortunate reality is similar for many students; they realize that these events are occurring and want to attend, but their schedules simply do not allow it.

Lauren Wilwerding, Assistant Director of the Lowell Humanities Series, has been satisfied with student turnout at lectures, but does see over-scheduling as a barrier to greater student attendance.

“We have a robust student turnout at Lowell Series events,” Wilwerding said. “And yet, there is always room for students to take more advantage of all the lectures, performances, and events on campus.”

Wilwerding continued to say that the Lowell Humanities Series does not rely on emails alone to market its events; the staff also reaches out to faculty members to encourage students to attend the lectures and engages directly with students on Facebook and Twitter.

While students may be informed about upcoming events, organizations face a different obstacle in attracting student attendance to their lectures: competition.

Monetta Edwards, Assistant Director of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, added that in addition to over-scheduling, students often have multiple choices for lectures to attend on any given day.

“It is quite common that on any given day there are two to five major talks happening on campus, so vying for student attendance can be quite challenging,” Edwards said. “I am delighted that our students have so many talks to choose from, but it would be remiss to say, especially given the resources that we put into our programming, that attendance at some of our talks is not exactly where we would like it to be.”

Staff at organizations like the Lowell Humanities Series and the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics work hard to invite engaging speakers to campus—introducing new and innovative themes to empower the university community. Students benefit from the privilege of learning from a variety of successful individuals, and can look forward to the Lowell Humanities Series' presentation of author Eula Biss on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 7:00 p.m.

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